Friday, April 24, 2009

This American Life Livecast

Last night I attended the "This American Life" livecast, which is an annual event where the radio show is broadcast live to theaters all around the country.  I won't talk about all the details because it will air this weekend (or you can download the podcast on iTunes).  I was surprised, thrilled and (in a very, very limited way) disappointed.
The disappointment was minimal.  I was really looking forward to seeing David Rakoff, because I thoroughly enjoyed his hilarious comments on television in last year's live episode.  "Thoroughly enjoyed" is inadequate--I had to run my mp3 player back over and over to replay his description of one of the heroines of "My Super Sweet Sixteen."  But apparently David was relegated to a separate video, which I'll have to hunt down this weekend.
I was surprised because the tone was a wee bit darker than last year's episode.  I don't have a problem with dark.  One of the stories made me cry, and I don't have a problem with that, either.  Both "This American Life" and the Moth podcast dip into the sadder side of life occasionally--personally I never consider these stories dark.  Life isn't all fabulous, and most of the stories are about getting something good about something bad--even if sometimes the only good thing that you can get out of it is the fact that you tried to get something good out of something bad...if you see what I mean.  Anyway, I've come to accept that most people think of this as "dark," and there was a definite downbeat turn to this year's livecast.
It didn't make it any less thrilling for me, though.  The most moving story was Dan Savage's beautiful tribute to his mother, who passed away this year.  I really identified with Dan's feelings about growing up Catholic, and it was great to hear about his mother's negotiation of her faith, especially once she knew that Dan was gay.  Dan's story was sweet and wistful and powerful, and I really appreciated the opportunity to share it, even though there's something heartbreaking about watching someone's voice catch as he tries to talk about someone he misses so much.
The close second, for me, was Mike Birbiglia's narrative of the obsession he developed after being t-boned by a drunk driver.  The surprise of the story was well worth preserving--I'll just say that our theater lapsed into dead silence, followed by a collective gasp and a palpable sense of wonder.  This is the kind of story for which the phrase, "truth is stranger than fiction" was coined.  I'm telling you, it's not the kind of story people seem to want to sit down for these days, but it's the good kind.
If any of that sounds like your bag, you can get the podcast from iTunes, check the listings for your local public radio station for This American Life, or see it the theater again on May 7.

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